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Subroman Britain

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Subroman Britain in 500 AD, after the anglosaxon defeat at Badon Hill.

Subroman Britain is the term given to Britain, after the Roman legions withdrew in 410 AD and until the beginning of the seventh century.


After four centuries of rule, Roman legions withdrew from Roman Britain at the beginning of the fifth century. But for approximately another two centuries existed the "Subroman Britain", with survival of Roman culture (and probably a vernacular latin language) in an increasingly anglosaxon Britain.

Subroman Britain initially successfully fought the invasion of the anglosaxons from northern Germany and the Jutland peninsula, thanks to a mytical king named King Arthur. Probably Ambrosius Aurelianus, who was a powerful Romano-British leader in Subroman Britain around mid-5th century, was King Arthur. He was renowned for his campaigns against the Saxons, and there is some speculation that he (or his son, according to the historian Gildas) may have commanded the Romano-british forces at the Battle of Badon Hill, where the barbarians were won around 500 AD.

The legends about King Artur and his court fighting the "evil invaders" were the main "expression" of Subroman Britain, done with romantic poetry and arthurian romance tales.

Indeed the Anglo-Saxons obtained control of eastern England at the end of the 5th century. After their defeat by King Arthur they stopped their expansion for nearly fifty years, but in the mid-6th century they started expanding again into the English Midlands. Then in the 7th century they expanded again into the south-west and the north of England. The unconquered parts of southern Britain, notably Wales and surrounding areas of western Britain, retained their Romano-British culture, in particular retaining Christianity.

Some Anglo-Saxon histories (in context) refer to the Romano-British people by the term "Welsh". The term Welsh is an Old English word meaning 'foreigner', referring to the old inhabitants of southern Britain.[1] Historically, Wales and the south-western peninsula were known respectively as North Wales and West Wales.[2]

Recent discoveries have helped document the continuing urban occupation of some Romano-british towns near Watling Street such as Viriconium (actual Wroxeter) and Venta (actual Caerwent), in those two centuries.[3]

One of the last subroman cities to be conquered by the Anglo-Saxons was Deva Victrix (actual Chester), where have been found roman "amphoras" used until 616 AD.[4] The Chester city walls are big intact defensive walls still around Chester (the city has been defended with walls since the foundation of the Deva Victrix fort on the site in 79 AD): probably the Romano-british community survived so long thanks to these powerful walls.


  3. Roger White and Philip Barker, Wroxeter: Life and Death of a Roman City, (Stroud: Tempus, 1998)
  4. P. Carrington, Eng. Heritage Bk. of Chester, 53; cf. S. Ward and others, Excavations at Chester: Saxon Occupation within Roman Fortress, 32-5; V.C.H. Ches. i. 238.


  • Mann, J. C. Spoken Latin in Britain as evidenced by the Inscriptions, in Britannia 2 (1971)
  • Morris, John. The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1996. ISBN 1842124773
  • Pearsall, Derek. Arthurian Romance: a short introduction. Blackwell. Oxford, 2005
  • Smith, C. Vulgar Latin in Roman Britain: Epigraphic and other Evidence, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt 2.29.2 (1983), pp. 893 – 948
  • Snyder, Christopher A. Sub-Roman Britain (AD 400-600): A Gazetteer of Sites. British Archaeological Reports (BAR) British Series No. 247. Oxford, 1996: Tempvs Reparatvm.

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